EU to set duties on Chinese tableware and pipe fittings

BRUSSELS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - The European Commission has proposed setting anti-dumping duties on imports of ceramic tableware and metal pipe fittings, further tightening its trade defences against Chinese exporters.

The Commission plans to impose duties of between 17 and 58 percent on Chinese producers of tableware and kitchenware and of between 15.9 and 59.3 percent on Chinese and Thai exporters of malleable tube fittings, according to EU sources.

Indonesian exporters of tube fittings will be exempted from duties because they are too small.

The European Commission declined to comment.

The duties, to be set by Nov. 16, would be provisional. EU member states would vote on them becoming definitive six months later.

China is the European Union's second-biggest trading partner after the United States, and the bloc is China's biggest trade partner. Trade between the two is forecast to hit a record 500 billion euros ($647 billion) this year.

Relations have been tense, with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht complaining China subsidises "nearly everything", distorting competition.

The European Commission last month launched its largest trade defence case to date, into the alleged dumping of 21 billion euros' worth of solar panels and components by Chinese producers.

It is also gathering evidence to mount a possible investigation into dumping of wireless telecom equipment by China's Huawei and ZTE .

Dumping means selling abroad at lower cost than on the domestic market.

China is a subject of 22 of 41 current EU trade defence investigations, although currently less than 1 percent of Chinese imports into the EU by value are subject to duties.

Cerame-Unie, representing the European Ceramic Industry, says China's share of the EU market in tableware and kitchenware rose to 67 percent last year from 22 percent in 2004, when quotas were lifted.

Over the past five years, it says EU producers have lost 650 million euros of output and cut 10,000 jobs, some 30 percent of the sector, due to a flood of Chinese imports.

Cerame-Unie says average Chinese prices are 70 percent lower than those of other countries exporting to Europe.

The Foreign Trade Association, which represents European retailers and importers, contends that the imposition of duties could force the closure of some importers of Chinese cups and plates and be a great burden for shops. ($1 = 0.7726 euros)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Andrew Roche)

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